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LAW ~ GOSPEL Thinking

Spiritual Solutions to the 10 Cognitive Distortions

Copyright © Rev. Daniel Lee Krueger  August, 2004  ~  All Rights Reserved

The LAW is

Everything that God commands us and demands from us.  It includes his threats of earthly trouble, physical death, and eternal damnation to those who break his commands.  The Law is to be applied to unrepentant sinners, meaning, those who rely on themselves and want to continue in sin.  If you want to know what "YOU HAVE TO DO" to inherit eternal life, look to the law and keep it perfectly!


Everything that God promises to us through Jesus, especially his promises of forgiveness and eternal life.  All God's promises are free to us, purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The Gospel is to be applied to repentant sinners,  meaning, those who want to turn from sin and turn to God's grace.  If you realize you can never do enough, look to the Gospel and rejoice in what "GOD HAS DONE" for you!

I:  All-or-nothing thinking:  If it's not perfect it's no good at all!

  • Phrase Watch:  I'm a total . . .;  I'm always . . .; I've wasted . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  My worth as a human being is based upon what I achieve by my own efforts, and nothing less than perfection counts as an achievement.
  • Law Reality:  You can't be perfect. No one can! (Ro 3:10-20 NIV) "There is no one righteous, not even one; . . . no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law;"
  • Gospel Reality:  You are already perfect in Christ, (Ro 3:22 NIV)  "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference"
  • Bottom Line:  You have nothing to prove or achieve.  Christ has accomplished everything for us.  Instead of worrying about your failures, or killing yourself in pursuit of perfection, know that you are loved as you are, and love others the best that you can.

II: Over-Generalization ~  Once a negative experience, always a negative experience!

  • Phrase Watch:  Everybody thinks . . .; No one will ever . . .; They will never . . .; I'll always . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  One negative experience means all experiences will be negative; This justifies quitting, withdrawing, and avoiding behaviors.
  • Law Reality:  You're right, there's something negative in everything and everyone, (Ro 5:12 NIV) "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned"
  • Gospel Reality:  Through Christ we can find a blessing in everything, (Ro 8:28 NIV) "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
  • Bottome Line:  Hidden within every negative there is a positive.  God can bring blessings even out of our failures.  Seek within everything that seems negative the positive part that you can build upon.

III: Mental Filter ~ Nothing good ever happens, and even if it did, it wouldn't matter!

  • Phrase Watch:  Nothing good ever . . .; I'm always getting . . .; Everyone is always . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  I only remember negative experiences.  Even in the good parts of my life I can always find something negative to focus on.
  • Law Reality:  One sin can destroy everything!  (Ja 2:10 NIV)  "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
  • Gospel Reality:  (Ro 5:18 NIV)   "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."
  • Bottom Line:  There is plenty of evil in the world, but there is also much that is good.  Focus on the good things, and God's peace will be with you.

IV: Disqualifying The Positive ~ When it comes to blessings, I get some by mistake

  • Phrase Watch:  I don't deserve . . .; I was lucky . . .; I'm not really . . .; It doesn't matter . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  I don't deserve good things, therefore I must reject praise.  The good I experience won't last, therefore I won't celebrate it.
  • Law Reality:  You're right!  You don't deserve any praise because you are a sinner.  (Ro 6:23 NIV) "For the wages of sin is death"
  • Gospel Reality:  By grace God gives us what we don't deserve.  (2Cor 4:15 NIV) "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 
  • Bottom Line:  God wants us to recognize his gifts to us, rejoice, and give thanks for them. 

Va: Jumping To Conclusions ~ Mind Reading ~ I know what everybody's thinking!

  • Phrase Watch: I know . . .; I assume . . .; They're probably . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  From limited information I can judge everyone's thoughts.  My actions and attitude are justified by what others think.
  • Law Reality: You don't know that much!  (1Co 8:2 NIV) "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know."
  • Gospel Reality: We don't have to be worried about what others are thinking.  We only need to worry about what God thinks, and in Christ he has told us what we need to know.  (1Jn 3:19-20 NIV)  "we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything"
  • Bottome Line:  It doesn't matter what other people think.  All that matters is what God is thinking. 

Vb: Jumping To Conclusions ~ Fortune Telling ~ Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong!

  • Phrase Watch:  I'll never . . . ; Why should I . . .; I won't . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  All experiences draw their value from the final outcome events, and I can predict the reaction to, or the outcome of, everything I do or say.
  • Law Reality:  Apart from our relationship with Christ, everything we do will be destroyed or forgotten.  (Ec 2:11 NIV) “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
  • Gospel Reality:  What we do for Christ may not always have earthly benefits, but it brings eternal blessings.  (Jn 15:5-7 NIV)  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; . . ."
  • Bottom Line:  What we do to serve God always has value, no matter what the earthly outcome, so make it your goal to serve him in everything.

VI: Magnification Or Minimization ~  Everything is either a crisis or nothing really matters!

  • Phrase Watch: I don't care . . . ; What's the use . . .; or AHHHHHH!!!!!!! . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem: I don't know what matters anymore because I don't know if I matter anymore.  I react inappropriately with anger or apathy to events.
  • Law Reality: You need to get your value system straight!  (Ec 12:13 NIV)  "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
  • Gospel Reality: Place your trust in God and you will value things appropriately.  (Jn 16:33 NIV)  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
  • Bottom Line:  How we value things is a by product of our spiritual state.  When we are at peace with God we will know how to rightly value what happens in life.

VII: Emotional Reasoning ~ I feel, therefore it is!

  • Phrase Watch:  I feel like . . . ; I don't feel like . . .; I'm just not in the mood . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  My feelings and emotions are the best guide to follow.  If I don't feel like doing it, I won't, no matter how good it might be for me, or no matter how illogical my decision is.
  • Law Reality:  Any decisions made from fear, guilt, worry, or doubt are by definition bad decisions.  (1Jn 4:18 NIV) "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
  • Gospel Reality:  Decisions made by faith in God's word will set us free.  (Jn 8:31-32 NIV)  "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
  • Bottom Line:  Trust in God's promises to care for us, forgive us, and save us from all evil, must replace our emotions as the primary guide for our decision making.

VIII: Should Statements ~ Should of, Could of, Would of!

  • Phrase Watch:  I Should have . . . ; Why don't they . . .; If only . . .; They should just . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  The grass is always greener on the other side.  A happy life can only be found in the way life isn't!
  • Law Reality:  The entire world is not as it should be, because of sin.  "Should" is one of the most frequent expressions in Scripture.  (Mk 6:12 NIV) "People should repent."
  • Gospel Reality:  We should be condemned for our sin, but God chose to reach down to us as we are.  His love for sinners is unexpected, and his ability to reach into our dismal world and bring a blessing is amazing.  (Ge 28:16 NIV)  "When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'"
  • Bottom Line:  What should have been or could have been doesn't matter.  God can bless you no matter who you are, or where you are.

IX: Labeling And Mislabeling ~ I'm just stupid and you are a jerk!

  • Phrase Watch:  I'm just a . . . ; You are such a . . .; Everyone is . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  From a single mistake you draw sweeping characterizations of yourself and others.
  • Law Reality:  Every sin is a witness to a horribly flawed human nature inside everyone of us.  (Mt 7:18 NIV)  "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."
  • Gospel Reality:  In Christ we have been re-labeled, (Ga 2:20 NIV)  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
  • Bottom Line:  God would not have us fear labels other might attach to us.  The only label that matters is his.  God would also want us to see others as he does, as sinners who can be changed by the good news of the gospel.

X: Personalization ~ It's All About Me, Myself, or I!

  • Phrase Watch:  . . . my fault; . . . against me; . . . about me; . . . my problem . . .
  • Fuzzy Thinking Problem:  I believe the behavior of others primarily determines the course of my life, or I believe my behavior primarily determines the lives of others.
  • Law Reality:  Neither you nor anyone else has that much control or influence.  (Ec 9:3 NIV) "This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny over takes all."  (Ro 9:20 NIV) "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"
  • Gospel Reality:  God is in control for our sakes, (Lk 12:6-7 NIV)  "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.   Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid."
  • Bottom Line:  There is nothing you can do that God can't undo.  There is nothing that has been done to you that God can't turn into a blessing.  Trust in God and let go of your fears.




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